Tuesday, 18 June 2013


The NPA had its annual general meeting on Saturday. The celebrations were to include the excommunication of board member, Ken Charko, to be followed by a barbecue. Things did not work out as the directors hoped. Charko supporters forced a change in the agenda, defeated the motion to remove him and he was returned to the board along with one supporter. Judging by reports it had a grass roots Kazakhstan flavour to it.

There are those who feel that this could be the end of the NPA. Don't bet on it.Forget the crazy meeting. Many in the past were worse. Much worse! The NPA remains an extremely potent force and a threat to VISION Vancouver and the newly created TEAM.


To understand its future it helps to know something about the NPA' s past. Initially, the Non Partisan Association's main purpose was to protect Vancouver from the Socialist Hordes.

Established in 1937, its board of directors were the pillars of the community. They surfaced before the elections, anointed a slate of worthy candidates, and vanished. During the height of its powers few if anyone knew about or attended their board meetings.

                                                         Early NPA Board Meeting

City elections were held annually. The ballots listed all candidates in alphabetical order without party affiliation. Most candidates were unknown. They remained unknown after their election. The alphabetically advantaged like Atherton, Adams, Alsbury and now, Affleck enjoyed better odds at getting elected.

An NPA campaign consisted of a card mailed across the West side of the City listing its slate. Voters were asked to take their precious card to the poll booth and select the candidates on the list. The voters were comforted by the list. Candidates had been interviewed by the directors and were certified not to be one of the socialist hordes. Independents did not stand a chance unless they were rich or famous.

The NPA was not and did not purport to be a political party. It simply endorsed candidates. It imposed no party discipline. Once elected, aldermen could vote as they wished, provided they did not think about nationalizing a bank .

The NPA's campaign expenses were limited to the cost of printing and distributing the candidate list and advertising a picture of a candidate a week or two before the annual election. It was the perfect political system: simple, elegant and cheap.


Fear of the socialist hordes held the whole thing together. Who were the hordes?  At first they consisted of one lawyer- Harry Rankin. Harry ran for Council and lost at least 12 consecutive times. The WW II hero never gave up. On the 13th try he was elected as an independent. Rankin helped created a second electoral organization called COPE (the Committee of Progressive Electors). Harry, the one man socialist horde turned out to be the most popular alderman in the city. Everyone gave one vote to Harry, "To keep the rest of them honest." When Harry died the Council declined to lower the flag to half mast because if they did it for him they would have to do it for everyone. Miraculously, the flag lowered itself.


In the early 1970s the election of Mayor Arthur Phillips under the TEAM banner brought about a further change. The provincial government amended the legislation so that party affiliations could be listed on the ballot. The NPA's poll sheet, by which its power was assured, was no longer necessary or effective.

From the 1970s onward a primordial soup of political groups burbbled away, evolved, merged, transmogrified died and were born again. These included COPE, NPA, TEAM, VOICE, NSV, RHINOS, COMMUNISTS and others.  Through it all the NPA won some, lost some but remained a power to be reckoned with. Its annual general meetings always seemed scripted by Saturday Night Live.

The attempted excommunication of Mr. Charko was nothing compared to earlier events. In 1962, Tom Campbell was elected as an NPA alderman. Then he split from his party and running as an independent, beat out NPA Mayor Bill Rathie in the 1966 election. In 1970, he returned to the the NPA and again won as mayor.

                                                       MAYOR TOM CAMPBELL 1969

Team and Art Phillips defeated NPA candidate, Bill Street, but TEAM dissolved after a couple of years. Jack Volrich was elected under the TEAM banner and then split from the party and ran as an independent. TEAM morphed into Mayor Harcourt's independent civic electors and formed an alliance with COPE. Harry Rankin in the 90's split from COPE and supported VOICE. Gordon Campbell, whose career began as Art Phillips assistant led the NPA to victory in 1986.

Estranged from Rankin, COPE seemed headed for the dustbin. Instead it was miraculously resurrected. It came to power under Mayor Larry Campbell, re-branded as VISION which metamorphosed into the new developers party replacing the NPA.

And so it goes. Fractious events do not always lead to  adverse results for a party.


A group of people, many of whom were associated with the original TEAM, now hope to see its rebirth  as a centrist party to replace both VISION and the NPA.  Because VISION and NPA are both funded by developers they see the choice as between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Politics makes strange developers.  Land Use Planning and zoning is the responsibility of Local Governments and when those who are regulated fund the regulators, huge towers coincidentally result. Sometimes they are even  named after the City Planner who approved them.

TEAM will not win by moral virtue alone. It must develop a machine and select good candidates. As long as the process encourages packing party meetings with new members to select candidates life  will be full of surprises.

To succeed, TEAM must not sell the NPA short. The split on the NPA's Board was less embarrassing then it could have been. Sure, they did not seem to be able to get many members out to an important meeting but at least they didn't make a martyr out of anybody. People can joke about  the latest neo- Borgia colour scheme for its coat of arms, but none of that matters. The fact remains that the NPA is a formidable political institution with a significant history. It has been able to raise awesome amounts of money from a relatively few donors.  For most of its history it has not depended on huge membership lists.

Local Elections are won by the comparative strength of political machines. The pollsters don't measure this and that is why they got it wrong in the recent provincial election. The NPA has exceptional connections to the Provincial Liberals. Those Liberals will be operating phone banks and knocking on doors to identify the vote in the next election. Even with all of the interest that is expressed in TEAM, it has a lot of catching up to do.


  1. I can say with certainty that the NPA is an unmitigated disaster! From Peter Armstrong wanting to spend his way to victory to the hangers on etc. who flocked to his stuffed pockets to defend him or so I am told.
    What I can’t understand is why after losing the first vote, as was reported, did this bunch not do the right thing and just withdraw? Instead the ruling group and hangers on held the same vote for a second time to a more resounding defeat?
    Question: Could this not be seen as a vote of no confidence?
    This is the problem with the NPA they represent no one except the pockets of Peter Armstrong.
    As for TEAM 2, well I can’t say that I am impressed with them either as it appears that they are trying to raise a ghost with a group who are all over 65/70. If this is the future I am sad to say we might be stuck with Vision.
    Where are the youth, the working families… have they all moved to Surrey and Langley? Maybe I should pack up as well?

    1. Sorry Alanon, TEAM's membership is half women to men, and includes those from different ethnic backgrounds. And, to your Point, we have youth as young as their early and mid twenties, lots in their 30s and 40s, and more coming through the door every day. Young people as well as those older are seeing through the Vision Vancouver mirage. The young people in TEAM have energy, commitment and are spot on on the issues.

      Bill McCreery

  2. "The duty of youth is to fight corruption." Kurt Cobain